Teaching Sentence Variety

In Vg1 one of the requirements for a passing grade is that “eleven kan i noen grad bruke variert setningsbygging”.

What does this mean?

Sentence length

If all or most sentences have roughly the same number of words, the text often becomes monotonous. Therefore variation in sentence length is a basic, but important factor.

Variation in the first word

Repetition of the first word in sentences is usually a bad idea as it can distract the reader.

Avoid repetition

Read through a text you have written to check if you have overused any words. It is easy to repeat short, common words such as “very”, but there are many synonyms to choose from: extremely, awfully, incredibly, dreadfully, etc.

Not just S-V-O sentences

A text which is dominated by this sentence type will often become boring to read. Therefore it is important to introduce some variety. Starting some sentences with an adverbial or an adverbial clause is one way of doing this.

Simple, compound, complex

A good text will usually contain a mixture of all of these sentence types, even though the writer will probably not be aware of the labels.

Some use of non-finite clauses

For example:

We arrived at the hotel. We unpacked and had a rest.

After arriving at the hotel, we unpacked and had a rest.<(p>

Conscious (and sparing) use of incomplete sentences

These should not be overused, but they may be used as a special effect. Because they stand out. But beware, they should be used very sparingly!

Sentence structure

Simple to complex

Combine the short, simple sentences to form one long, complex sentence.

For each set of simple sentences, write two versions, placing the simple sentences in a different order.


A farmer found three starving fox cubs. He took them to an animal hospital. This surprised the vets. Most farmers hate foxes.

Version 1:

A farmer found three starving fox cubs and took them to an animal hospital, which surprised the vets, as most farmers hate foxes.

Version 2:

A farmer surprised the vets when he went to an animal hospital with three starving fox cubs he had found, because most farmers hate foxes.

Now do the same with these:

  1. The cubs were lonely. They missed their mother. A vet gave them a toy fox. They love it. They think it is real.
  2. I refused to lend him the money. I knew I would get it back. I didn’t want him to buy a motorbike.
  3. She sold the painting. It had been in her family for generations. She really needed the money.
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